In the Beginning

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written on January 5, the first morning returning to work in the new year

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

My 2015, I lay before the Creator. A shape-less, useless lump of clay. Wet and slimy, it sticks to my hands and I am overwhelmed. So much is yet to be known – what will be shaped from this day? This month? This year?

Will it be a strong structure that can withstand the wear-and-tear of whatever is to come? Will the structure created be so bound to the temporary that by 2016, it will be relegated to a shelf as a relic to days gone by.

Continue reading

This Beating Broken Heart

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ImageEach morning, the voices and images of people across the globe flood my second floor as I prepare for the day.  Through the amazing gift of technology, Brian Williams catches me up on the latest news in our world.

Women weep and cling to one another in a Chinese hotel as they await answers from the disappearance of their family and friends.  Men attempt to win the battles of wars waged by greed, power, and pride that parade as politics. And then they feature a special on the children of Syria. Continue reading

SURPRISE

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We rehearsed it as we went from house to house. “Merry Christmas,” we would practice. By the time we got to the next one, the anticipation of ringing the doorbell was too much and the words would fail him. He would just stick out his hand holding the bag of gingerbread to give to our neighbor.  Despite our rehearsals and our plans, our three year old is our wild card.  Our surprise.

I love the intentional time this season gives to shower those around us with love. The gifts thoughtfully purchased and delicately wrapped. The stove watched over as the gingerbread loaves reach completion to show love to neighbors. The decorations hung around the house to usher in the joy of the season.

The list that once caused me anxiety now gives me a sense of relief as each item is crossed off in completion

Now comes the real Christmas. Continue reading

Into the EMPTINESS the Angel Speaks

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Pottery Barn catalogs pile up the stress as the Christmas gift list is still blank. The instagrammed Christmas tree selfies on my newsfeed create jealousy in me as our house is still tree-less. Five days into December and the days seem to be speeding by like a train on the tracks…if I slow down long enough to let my eyes follow one train car, I will feel the whiplash when I see that ten others pass within mere seconds.

In the silence of the morning, I wait. I wait for my mind to settle. I wait for Christmas to sink into this heart of mine.   I wait… only to realize that the void of the tangible Christmas items points out the void of the best of Christmas’ intangible gifts…the coziness of a decorated home, the peace of lingering conversation, the magic of the gifting season.

The void echoes and calls out to be filled. Continue reading

Friendship: the Worship of Our Very Lives

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On our way to our table for three, we have already begun our worship.  We open the menus and we begin with praise – sharing stories from the latest happenings from the day or tales of the latest mishaps in ministry.  We laugh and we nod in understanding.  We order our drinks, place our lunch orders, turn in the menus, and move into confession.

Taking turns, we look to one another and ask – “So, how are you doing?”  If the first attempt does not open the floodgate, we entertain the response and then prod further with another, “how are you really doing?”  Slowly and carefully, one will unpack the latest stresses, fears, and wonders of our lives.  The two listening will lean in and remain quiet.  Nodding their heads, they hold the words and feelings gently.

Avoiding the traps of advice or dismissal or belittling, we move into proclamation.  We seek to shed light on the darkness of our confessions.  We try to drain the power of the gremlins that too often rule our thoughts.  We ask questions.  We look for where hope is growing.  We hold in our hands the grief of one another.  We mourn our inability to grant another’s dream or fix another’s brokenness.  When we cannot find the words, we just sigh. Continue reading

rowdy jesus

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“Read the Gospels.  Read what this guy is really like.  He had a strong personality, he told jokes, his friends were all the wrong people, he liked to go to parties.  He didn’t start a lepers’ rights movement, he just healed lepers in his path.  He was far more severe about people who were judgmental than he was about people who committed adultery.  Love was always more important than anything else.  All of his miracles were done on the Sabbath.  God should have said, “Jesus, tone it down a bit.  Be a little more careful!”

~ Robert Wuthnow, Creative Spirituality: the Way of the Artist

compassion

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“The compassion that Jesus felt was obviously quite different from superficial or passing feelings of sorrow or sympathy.  Rather, it extended to the most vulnerable part of Jesus’ being.  It is related to the Hebrew word for compassion, rachamim, which refers to the womb of Yahweh.  Indeed, compassion is such a deep, central, and powerful emotion in Jesus that it can only be described as a movement of the womb of God.  There, all the divine tenderness lies hidden.

There, God is father and mother, brother and sister, son and daughter.  There, all feelings, emotions, and passions are one in divine love.  When Jesus was moved to compassion, the source of all life trembled, the ground of all love burst open, and the abyss of God’s immense, inexhaustible, and unfathomable tenderness revealed itself.”

~ Henri Nouwen in Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life

“What if Jesus Meant All That Stuff?”

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shane claibourne’s article in esquire magazine…

“I have a friend in the UK who talks about “dirty theology” — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man’s eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)

In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay “out there” but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, “Nothing good could come.” It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society’s rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.

It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors… a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.”

 

Tuesday Morning Reflection

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to struggle used to be
to grab with both hands

and shake
and twist
and turn
and push
and shove and not give in

but wrest an answer from it all
as jacob did a blessing.

but there is another way
to struggle with an issue, a question –
simply to jump

off

into the abyss
and find ourselves

floating
falling
tumbling
being led

slowly and gently
but surely
to the answers god has for us –
to watch the answers unfold
before our eyes and still
to be a part of the unfolding

but, oh! the trust
necessary for this new way!
not to be always reaching out
for the old hand-holds.

~a new way of struggling by susan w. n. ruach